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Kyrgios: No Bad Blood with "Beast" Nadal

The Happy Slam could be mayhem major when the king of chaos meets the king of clay.

Nick Kyrgios has taken his share of shots at nemesis Rafael Nadal, but insists there's no bad blood ahead of their blockbuster Australian Open rematch.

More: Kyrgios Conquers Khachanov

The temperamental Aussie admitted he tried drilling Nadal "square in the chest" during his second-round Wimbledon loss last summer. Kyrgios mocked Nadal's pre-serve ritual earlier this week by picking at the seat of his shorts.

The 23rd-seeded Kyrgios vows to bring his best—and respect for the world No. 1—when the rivals square off in an Australian Open blockbuster fourth-round clash on Monday night.

"I don't really know Rafa. I've never, like, hung out with him or anything like that," said Kyrgios, who cracked 33 aces electrifying five-set epic win over Karen Khachanov. "So I don't really know how he is. I don't really dislike him. I never said...

"I mean, I don't know him at all. Hell of a tennis player. Don't know him as a person. I'm sure he's okay."

Still, expect post Australia Day fireworks between shotmakers who are polar opposite players.

Nadal has won four of their seven meetings, including a tense 6-2, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 triumph at Wimbledon last July.

Last week, Kyrgios needled Nadal mimicking the 19-time Grand Slam champion's service motion during his AO second-round victory over Gilles Simon.

Hit with a time violation warning, Kyrgios, who typically plays quickly in his service games, responded by imitating Nadal's pre-serve routine pushing his hair behind his ears and picking at the seat of his shorts. 

A ferocious Nadal tuned up for the Kyrgios clash punishing Pablo Carreno Busta in a 98-minute beat down without facing a single break point.

Asked how he feels about Kyrgios, Nadal was clear he doesn't appreciate disrespect.

"It's clear, of course, that when he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don't like," Nadal said. "When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour, and I want my tour bigger, not smaller.

"So the players who make the tour bigger are important for the tour. When he's ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, is one of these guys. When he's doing the other stuff, of course I don't like."

The "other stuff" of course includes incidents in their Wimbledon second-round clash turned grudge match.

Nadal called out Kyrgios' body blow aas a dangerous play.

"When he hit the ball like this, is dangerous. Is not dangerous for me, is dangerous for a line referee, dangerous for a crowd," Nadal said. "When you hit the ball like this, you don't know where the ball goes. I know he's a big talented player, but I am a professional player, too. I know when you hit this kind of ball, the ball can go anywhere."

Kyrgios, who was annoyed by what he perceived as Nadal's stalling between points, ripped into the chair umpire during a Nadal bathroom break at SW19.

“What is this stuff bro? Play the game," Kyrgios said on court. "Just kiss up to him, it’s a joke. He takes 40 seconds between every serve, is that within reason? No. So don’t tell me to play within reason."

Afterward, Kyrgios admitted he tried to nail Nadal with the ball and said he has no reason to apologize for the act.

"Why would I apologize?" Kyrgios continued. "I mean, the dude has got how many slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro. I'm not going to apologize to him at all."

A basic conflict between the pair is time management: Nadal is methodical and ritualistic between his service points using every second of the serve clock, while Kyrgios can play at an almost manic pace as if playing speed chess.

Each will try to command the center of the court in the rematch. The question is: will Kyrgios play provocateur and try to incite Nadal as he's done in the past with tactics ranging from trash talk to body serves to underhand serves.

Calling the 19-time Grand Slam champion "a different beast", Kyrgios says he gained confidence and insight into Nadal's service patterns from their last meeting at Wimbledon. 

"Every time you put up a battle like that against Rafa, you're going to take confidence from it," Kyrgios said. "Two tough tiebreaks. There's nothing in that match really. He changed up his game plan a little bit.

"I'll probably expect him to serve a little bit more to my forehand when I play him in a couple days. That's what he did at Wimbledon. He had some pretty good success there. I thought he played really well at Wimbledon. I came out a little slow. But the grass just seemed so slow. I couldn't really break him down."

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve